My Newsradio Scripts

These are my old radio news scripts on Singapore's current affairs when I worked as a broadcast journalist.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

In Your Neighbourhood #12 - Harmony

Broadcasted On: 08/02/02

Recent days, the atmosphere is a bit tense in the neighbourhood.

The arrests of the Jemaah Islamiyah operatives, the Fateha-dot-com, and now the tudung issue.

The leaders of Singapore are speaking again, warning Singaporeans to be racially sensitive and to remember the lessons from the 1964 race riots.

Hi welcome to In Your Neighbourhood with me Chong Ching Liang.

A significant proportion of Singaporeans are born after 1965.

This group is the lucky ones.

They didn't live through 1964, the year of racial turbulence.

However, by missing the 1964 riots, they also missed some important truths.

Last Saturday, I expressed my concerns to Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong about the lack of education on the positive lessons from 1964.

"My concerns, I spend 4 and half years as an oral history officer. And in oral historical records, there are a lot of kawans helping each other like what Brian said. And I am constantly surprised that the 64 riots are always only mentioned for the fear and the warning that it represents but not the other side. How many times have we heard reports that someone's uncle or someone's uncle knocked on the neighbour's door and the neighbour's not Chinese or not Malay but they rescued them. If you wanted to teach about sensitivity, you also have to teach about how races help each other. "

Here's Mr Goh's response.

"Good. I think the positive side's got to be highlighted more. And if you form these IRCC's we can begin to talk about these positive examples, real examples where we knows, where neighbours help one another. So we want to draw lessons on the positive side of that unfortunate period we went through. Because there are, or there were indeed many cases where neighbours you know, told their neighbours, don't worry, I am with you; I will look after you and warn others to keep off. Its a suggestions we should take up."

What are the positive examples?

A Chinese Singaporean, Mr Ricky Goh recalls how his brother was saved.

"My eldest brother was working in a bookshop in Victoria St. On that particular evening, he was returning back. He finds that ...'how come it's so quiet. There's no traffic.' When he reaches Geylang Serai, one of the neighbours who's a Malay neighbour was so shocked, he says 'What are you doing? Don't you know there's a racial riot? There's so many killing. I will escort you back through the Malay kampung. But at the meantime, just keep quiet and just follow me.' Luckily this neighbour saved my eldest brother's life. If not for him, I think today he won't be around."

In another racially motivated riot, the Maria Hertogh riots of 1950, President of Eurasian Association, Bryan Davenport, noted that then, friendship also took precedent over race.

"I like to put the clock back, flip the clock back maybe 50 years, when as a young Singaporean growing up in Katong, my neighbour, who's looking Dutch, had come home in the evening, and he was.. well, the home was attacked by a group of a race which was worried about the Maria Hertogh riots that was going on at the time. A Dutch girl who was kept by a Muslim family. And my Malay maid walked across to the house and said ' Jangan motu sana, ini saya kawan' so there you were. A Malay defending the right of another person in Singapore. "

Sociologist Lai Ah Eng of the Institute of Policy Studies highlights an interesting incident during the '64 riots.

"Joined peace keeping between the adjacent villages of Kampung Chai Chee mainly Chinese inhabitants and Kampung Siglap, mainly Malay villagers. Each village sent three elders to talk peace and to join forces for the protection of both villages by attacks from outsiders. To quote an informant, 'they carried a white flag and they walked down the road and met halfway. "

Dr Lai mentioned three such incidents of inter-racial rescue in her book, Meanings of Multi Ethnicity.

From her research, Dr Lai says there isn't a pattern of friends attacking each other.

"It's always the outsider that attacks the target group and not those who live in the same settlement. People who live in the same settlement actually have a shared interest to protect the common space that they live in. Which leads to the second point - the protection of targets from outsiders' attack by neighbour and friends. Because they know the neighbour, they know the friend, they are going to protect these neighbour or friend from outsiders even if outsiders maybe of the same race. And the third thing is the setting up of peace pacts and mutual protection patrols in shared or adjacent settings. And this can cut across ethnic background as well."

However, while there are many cases of inter-ethnic protection cases but they aren't highlighted often enough.

There's a need to move beyond fear as a socialising agent for harmony.

Dr Lai again.

"It is using the ethnic riot as a form of socialisation but that's a very negative way of socialising people into accepting or merely tolerating each other. We need to move beyond that, to also move beyond the fear of the riot to not just establish levels of tolerance, but to be able to increase our knowledge so that our degree of acceptance and even appreciation grows by the day."

Look around in your neighbourhood.

do you see friends or do you see strangers?

Start making friends and maybe you'll stop seeing race.

This is Chong Ching Liang, for Newsradio 938.

Related Websites:
Institute of Policy Studies
Eurasian Association


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